The School is pleased to announce a Psychology Seminar on 19 March, presented by Professor Maria-Paola Paladino from Department of Cognitive Sciences and Education, University of Trento.
TITLE: Synchronous Multisensory Stimulation Blurs Self-Other Boundaries
When dancers, soldiers or the praying faithful perform their activities simultaneously, they experience this as ³becoming one². In this talk I will present a series of studies showing that multisensory integration, the ability of the brain to knit together sensorial stimulations when they are synchronous, is one of the reason of this phenomenon. As shown in recent studies in cognitive neuroscience, multisensory integration plays a central role in the perception of one¹s own body and can lead to illusory perception when it involves external objects. In the rubber hand illusion, for instance, individuals can incorporate extracorporeal body-parts into their own body boundaries when the visible body-parts are stimulated in spatio-temporal synchrony with the observer¹s skin. We hypothesized that this correlated or synchronous multisensory stimulation leads to an illusion of incorporation (i.e. that the body of the other becomes somehow confounded with the own body), but also that self and other merge to some extent on more abstract levels of representation (e.g., personality, inner states, opinions etc. of the self and the other). Taking advantage of this illusion, we touched the cheek of participants while they were watching the face of a stranger been touched in synchrony (vs. asynchrony). In a first study, we found that this multisensory procedure had an effect at the perceptual, bodily, and also at the conceptual level. Compared to asynchronous stimulation, synchronous stimulation led to more self-other merging in terms of body sensations and face similarity, and also to self-other merging in terms of inner states, similarity, closeness and conformity behavior. In a second study, we replicated study 1 and we registered ocular movements to investigate whether face exploration differed in a synchronous vs asynchronous stimulation. In a third study, we investigated whether the effect of the synchronous manipulation extends also to intergroup context.
In sum, in a series of studies we showed that observing others receiving tactile stimulations while one experiences the same stimulations in perfect synchrony led to feelings of similarity, and closeness. These results show that synchronous multisensory stimulation, as it created by many social rituals, blurs the borders between the own and the other¹s bodies, and thereby fosters socially bonding.